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Sunday, March 29, 2020

Police Urge Vigilance As Fraudsters Focus On COVID-19

Grey Bruce | by Matt Hermiz  

Many new scams targeting vulnerable people focused on uncertainties of pandemic.

Countless scams have started to pop up offering products or services that are in high demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as fraudsters try to prey on the uncertainty and anxiety many people are feeling at this time.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre says tactics fraudsters have been utilizing to try to entice payment from vulnerable people include calls impersonating the World Health Organization or Centre for Disease Control offering fake lists of infected people from your neighbourhood, offers of personal protective equipment such as masks or sanitizers in exchange for a donation, or offering fake COVID-19 tests or other products that can detect and treat the virus.

A text scam has also arisen centred around Canada's new Emergency Response Benefit, urging users who receive it to click a link to claim a deposit -- while the real purpose of fraudsters is to gain personal information to complete a theft.

Owen Sound Police Chief Craig Ambrose says it's a big concern any time people prey on fear or uncertainty. He urges citizens to remain cautious, and never provide personal financial information to anyone.

"Only hospitals can administer the tests," Ambrose reminds. "There are no private testing companies. And the same goes for sending money for masks and (other personal protective equipment). I would suggest you ensure you know company you're dealing with. I wouldn't go with any new companies right now, or any special offers you may receive as they likely aren't legitimate."

Ambrose says there have not been any direct reports of these COVID-19 scams specifically targeting residents in the

Owen Sound area yet, but the police service does feature messaging to people who interact with scams and suffer no financial loss to directly contact the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.

"So it could still be happening here, but it's not being directly reported to us," Ambrose notes.

You can view a full list of COVID-19 frauds reported by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre here.

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